You’ve seen them. Those white, mostly blank web pages that say, in large bold lettering, Not Found.
They’re 404 error pages, the pages visitors to your website land on if the URL they tried no longer exists. People can end up on 404 pages when you move a page, rename it, delete it, the link they clicked had a typo or other error, and when they mis-type the URL.
Why you should care
You should care about this because 404 error pages are an opportunity. An opportunity…
- Not to lose a visitor. You have a website to encourage visitors, right?
- To demonstrate your helpfulness. Seems pretty important for a mediator to be able to do.
- To broaden their horizons. Direct them to a few key resources you’d like to highlight.
- To demonstrate your creativity. Another characteristic a mediator might want to flaunt.
- And, if all else is lost, to leave ‘em with a smile.
What to do
- Find a way to track what, if anything, on your site is yielding 404s. One option is to sign up for the free Google Analytics, which includes that feature.
- Fix them with redirects (your webmaster can help you) or, if it’s an incorrect link coming from elsewhere, see if you can get that link corrected.
- Create a custom 404 error page for your site (more resources below).
- Take care not to delete or rename URLs on your site without adding a redirect (see #2).
Here’s my 404 page. I like to make folks chuckle, so that’s the spirit in which I designed it:
If you’re looking for some 404ish inspiration, I highly recommend Smashing Magazine’s 404 Error Pages Reloaded. They provide 40 examples of real 404 pages, categorized by the approach taken (irony, humor, unusual, etc.). Even if you don’t plan to make a 404 page of your own, it’s still worth a visit for the laugh factor.
Need some help with a 404 error page? If you already have a webmaster, they can do this for you. If you don’t, tell me about the help you need and I’ll put you in touch with someone who can do it.
Got a good 404 page to share? Leave a comment with the URL so we can all ooh and ah together!